Nikon Coolpix 4500 review: Nikon Coolpix 4500

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MSRP: $699.95

The Good Useful swivel-lens design; clear, bright LCD; excellent macro capabilities; extensive manual control; superior image quality.

The Bad Confusing operation; no RAW file option; some features buried in menu.

The Bottom Line The Nikon Coolpix 4500's power and versatility will appeal to photo enthusiasts who have the patience to dig for features.

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7.4 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7
  • Image quality 9

The Nikon Coolpix 4500, a 4-megapixel, 4X optical-zoom spin on the swivel-lens camera, follows in the footsteps of the very popular Coolpix 990 and 995 models. It delivers high-quality, sharp output in a basic design that's very similar to the 995's. But for a little more money, the Canon PowerShot G2 provides the same power and excellent photo quality with a friendlier interface. However, if you crave the flexibility of a swivel lens and are willing to tinker with its features, the 4500 will do you right. The 4500 retains the two-part swivel body of its predecessor, the Coolpix 995, but Nikon overhauled the interface to make the 4500 simpler to use.

The 995 had buttons, dials, and an LCD similar to those of Nikon's professional 35mm film cameras--all of which will intimidate beginners. In contrast, the 4500 offers a cleaner, simpler face as well as a lighter but solidly built 12.8-ounce body. It relies on fewer buttons and on the LCD alone for the mode and settings readout.

The Nikon Coolpix 4500's lens swivels.All setting info appears on the LCD.

However, the LCD is superficially streamlined, so you'll still have to do a good amount of scrolling and dialing to tweak the 4500's settings. Labels are hard to come by on the camera's exterior, and operation requires more than a little guesswork at first. Features such as Movie mode are hidden deep in the menu, and relying on the LCD to scroll through all of the mode options can be a hassle.

Some controls are still cryptically labeled.

That said, the menu system itself is clearly labeled and fairly easy to navigate. The 4500's learning curve is a tad steep, but after you spend some time with the manual, the benefits are worth it. The camera affords a good deal of photographic control. For example, we like the programmable Function button. It conveniently defaults to an exposure-compensation control, but if your needs lie elsewhere, you can change that via the Setup menu. The Coolpix 4500's long list of features targets the photo enthusiast. You get a full range of exposure and metering modes; a selectable, five-area autofocus; a bulb setting; and an external flash terminal. All this, plus the adjustable sharpening, contrast, and saturation settings give you a good range of manual control. For more automated shooting, 16 scene modes offer convenience and include fun settings such as multiple-exposure photos. The handy Small Pic feature automatically resizes high-resolution images for e-mailing, so they're ready to be sent after downloading to your computer. Nikon outfits the 4500 with a sharp, f2.6-to-f5.1 Nikkor 4X zoom lens, which yields a good focal range and accepts lens attachments such as Nikon's SB-29s ring light for macro photography.

Saving TIFF files to the CompactFlash card takes a while.

Included accessories

You can shoot uncompressed TIFFs with this Coolpix, which can be helpful if you're going to press with your images or significantly enlarging them. But given the immense file sizes and the nearly half-minute that it takes the camera to process and save each TIFF to the CompactFlash card, an option to shoot RAW images would have been an appealing bonus.

The camera can use proprietary rechargeable batteries as well as commonly available 2CR5 lithium-ion batteries.

Though start-up and autofocus aren't lightning-fast, the Coolpix 4500's performance is solid and well suited for a variety of shots. Likewise, its brief shutter delay shouldn't be a major hindrance. The camera excels at macro photography, providing excellent detail, and can focus objects as close as 0.8 inches from the lens.

The included rechargeable lithium-ion battery performs well, powering about 80 high-res JPEG shots with extensive use of the LCD. The camera will also run on the nonrechargeable 2CR5 lithium camera batteries found in many drugstores, so it doesn't hurt to have one handy while you repower the original in its charging unit.

The onboard flash reaches a maximum of 9.8 feet, about average for a consumer digicam, and includes a slow-sync setting. The LCD remains clear and bright even in sunlight; the optical viewfinder is also very clear, though it provides only 80 percent coverage. Keep in mind, however, that you'll usually need to use the LCD, if only to verify the current camera settings.

The viewfinder displays only 80 percent of the image frame.

Input/output ports

The camera delivers sharp, detailed images.

The Coolpix 4500 excels in the image-quality department, providing especially detailed, sharp, and clean images with little noise. It accurately meters and exposes pictures, and color tends more toward the natural than the oversaturated. However, if you want, you can bump up saturation via the menu. We did notice occasional barrel distortion at the wide end of the zoom range, but it wasn't severe enough to worry about. Chromatic aberrations are remarkably infrequent as well.

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